Karma's When I Feel Like It Blog

January 14, 2012

Three for the Thirds


Winter temperatures have settled in for the weekend.  It is supposed to go down to about 6° F tonight and struggle to get out of the low 20’s tomorrow.  My rhododendron thermometer convinced me that I really didn’t want to venture outside today.  I bet tomorrow it’ll be curled as tight as needles.  I’ll try to remember to take a picture to show you.  The cold made me start dreaming of warmer days … “only” 92 days until our cruise in the spring!

The cold also helped me decide that I would use old photos rather than new for Scott’s current assignment.  I have three different situations for the rule of thirds here and I’d love to hear what everyone thinks.  My first situation is a “before” and “after” where I created a photo that follows the rule by cropping:


In this shot, the ocean/sky line pretty much cuts the photo right in half (its a little crooked, too)


I edited the shot by cropping it to have the water fill two-thirds of the shot, plus have the sailboat at one of the crossings of those imaginary gridlines.  Definite improvement.

Here’s another summer shot that I think follows the rule, SOOC:


I think the rocks/sand/water, tree line and sky divide the photo nicely into thirds, although I don’t think there’s any special emphasis at the intersection points.  Does this one work as a rule of thirds?  Let me know.

In this third situation, I’m wondering if applying the rule of thirds actually takes away from the photo.  Take this photo that I loved so much of my vacation rainbow:

As I looked at it, I wondered if it would be better if my rainbow wasn’t so smack dab in the middle of the shot, so I tried cropping:

I don’t think I like this better.  In the cropping, I lost some of the nice reflection of the rainbow in the splashes of water of the tidal pools and I think the rainbow looks kind of pushed off to the side.  What do you think?

This is my contribution to Scott’s Rule of Thirds assignment.  There is still time to participate if you’d like to – due date is Wednesday, January 18th.

ETA: Several folks mentioned in the comments that they might have edited the sailboat to show more sky rather than water, so I tried it:

It may have a little more of the “feeling” I was thinking of when I shot it.  I don’t know if anyone who orginally made that comment will come back and have a look, but if you do, let me know what you think.


  1. You’re very brave. I’m still trying to screw up the courage to enter …

    I agree with your assessment about the last image with the rainbow. I like the “before” better. Even though the rainbow is in the centre of the first image, the island itself, is off centre. I like it.

    The rocks, sand, water one works too. I’m still struggling with the intersection lines in composing pictures.

    I prefer the “after” on the sailboat shot, but it is my least favourite of the three.

    Comment by Sybil — January 14, 2012 @ 6:54 pm | Reply

    • Never worry about courage with Scott’s assignments Sybil! It is a very friendly community and no one is judgmental – just helpful. Plus Scott is choosing the photography class participant randomly, not by the entry he likes best! 🙂
      Thanks for your thoughts about the photos. I had this idea about creating a lonely-but-beautiful photo with that single sailboat shot, but I never quite got it to look just right. It seeemed like an easy shot to try making the rule of thirds though!

      Comment by Karma — January 15, 2012 @ 8:42 am | Reply

  2. You have nailed it on the “after” sailboat shot. Also,the one with the multiple sailboats is excellent. About the two rainbow shots, I think I like the first one best personally, but they both can work for the rule of thirds. On these it is a matter of which composition you like best. Nice work, Karen. 🙂

    Comment by Bob Zeller — January 14, 2012 @ 10:21 pm | Reply

    • Thank you Bob. That one with the multiple sailboats is actually the one that I sent you a zoomed-in copy of a while back. The small white birds near the boats are the ones I was wondering whether they were egrets. I’ll be keeping my eyes open to see if I can get any closer shots of them this summer; I never realized I could find them in Maine.

      Comment by Karma — January 15, 2012 @ 8:45 am | Reply

  3. You’re spot on with the sailboat crop… and I think the coastline is a good example too, and the larger building does appear to be at one of those cross hatch spots…and I love the first rainbow picture, don’t change that one..it’s perfect the way it is.

    Comment by Dawn — January 15, 2012 @ 9:33 am | Reply

    • Thanks Dawn. I’ve been thinking I should do something with that rainbow picture – maybe an enlargement and frame.

      Comment by Karma — January 16, 2012 @ 8:57 am | Reply

  4. Not everything has to follow the rule of thirds which is illustrated in your lighthouse image. The original one is composed nicely as is tho I also don’t mind the cropped version.

    The sailboat crop works (you also could have cropped it such that there 2/3 sky to 1/3 water). The grouping of sailboats is more of an example of good composition containing something in the foreground, middle ground and background.

    Comment by milkayphoto — January 15, 2012 @ 5:50 pm | Reply

    • I agree not everything should follow “the rules” – we’d never do anything creative if we always did.
      I tried re-cropping the sailboat if you care to come back and have a look! 🙂
      Thanks Tracy.

      Comment by Karma — January 16, 2012 @ 8:59 am | Reply

      • Nicely done! I think this crop does give the feeling one has when out sailing….that feeling of being completely alone one the wide open blue… 🙂

        Comment by milkayphoto — January 16, 2012 @ 9:02 am

  5. If they were my photos, I would have cropped the sailboat photo to show less water and more sky, and the rainbow photo to place the rainbow on the right side instead of the left, and I wouldn’t have cropped as tightly either.

    Comment by TheDailyClick — January 15, 2012 @ 8:23 pm | Reply

    • If you have the chance, I hope you’ll come back and see that I tried re-cropping the sailboat and posted it here. I might like it better that way too! I looked at your suggestion for the rainbow one, but I don’t think I took a wide enough shot to place the rainbow to the right without an extremely tight crop. I could be wrong though! 🙂

      Comment by Karma — January 16, 2012 @ 9:01 am | Reply

  6. I agree about the rainbow crop. The rule of thirds is just that: a rule. It doesn’t mean that it always makes a photo better. Sometimes you have to break rules, and I think that’s perfectly fine. I just posted my own rule-of-thirds entry.

    Comment by norasongbird — January 15, 2012 @ 9:56 pm | Reply

    • Hi Nora. Thanks for stopping by and leaving me your thoughts. I was planning to have a look at the entries people have posted to Scott’s assignment today, so I’ll be sure to stop and see yours. 🙂

      Comment by Karma — January 16, 2012 @ 9:03 am | Reply

  7. I was just remarking to my husband this morning about the rhododendrons, they are curled up tight. I had birds in them today seeking shelter. I spent way more time than was necessary outdoors today but it was actually invigorating (really, it was!).
    I often follow the rule of thirds but I also will look at a photo and crop it to what is pleasing to my eye which is not always the rule.

    Comment by Becky Sue — January 15, 2012 @ 11:01 pm | Reply

    • Brrr… you are a brave one, Becky! 😉

      Comment by Karma — January 16, 2012 @ 9:04 am | Reply

  8. Excellent thirds. 🙂

    Comment by Dawn — January 16, 2012 @ 9:55 am | Reply

  9. Really good job, Karma! I like how you played around and explored and tried out different views. Looks like you had lots of fun–and probably learned a lot, to boot! P.S. It’s brrrr cold here today too and I can guarantee you would not want to go outside with the wind blowing so fiercely.

    Comment by Kathy — January 17, 2012 @ 1:40 pm | Reply

    • Thanks Kathy. That “rule” is one I’ve tried to remember over the years, but like everything else in photography, it is just a guideline or suggestion. We finally got a bit of the white stuff here, with a little more expected tomorrow; hoping to get outside for some pictures and that perhaps the wind won’t feel it necessary to blow too hard.

      Comment by Karma — January 20, 2012 @ 4:34 pm | Reply

  10. How interesting to look at your different pictures and how you tried different versions of them. I love the “after” version of the sailing boat, it seemed a bit lost in the landscape before. I prefer the one with more water than sky. i would not change anything in the second shot, just perfect for me. As for the third picture, the first shot appeals more to me. It looks less “centered” and I like the opening to the lake on the left side. It definitely adds another dimension to your picture, The reflection of the rainbow in the water is gorgeous. You did really well and it is interesting to see the differences. I have a lot to learn about this Rule of Thirds. Thanks, Karen.

    Comment by isathreadsoflife — January 18, 2012 @ 2:06 am | Reply

    • Thanks Isa. I’ve been considering that rainbow shot for a long time. I’m thinking maybe I should frame it.

      Comment by Karma — January 20, 2012 @ 4:35 pm | Reply

  11. I have just written a comment to “Nye”, I also feel is suitable to start with to you!: I do not think one should consider the “Rule of Thirds” as a strict rule, but as a help, you can use in whole or partial to possibly improve an image.
    Photo 3:Have you tried to rotate and position the rainbow in the left part of the picture? I tried it on your photo plus some adjustments – and it was much better! (send me your e-mail – I will send my version to you)
    Photo 2: Nice shot!
    Photo 1: Needs cropping. I like the version with two-thirds water – because the water looks more interesting in this photo than the sky 🙂

    Comment by truels — January 18, 2012 @ 2:30 pm | Reply

    • Thanks Truels – I agree the “rule” is only a guideline or suggestion, and it won’t work to improve every picture. I’ll email you – I’m intrigued to see what you’ve done with my picture.

      Comment by Karma — January 20, 2012 @ 4:37 pm | Reply

  12. Great example with the sailboat! I can’t decide which crop I like best. I’m tempted to say the first one, since I think the water is more interesting than the sky, but they both look good. I like the image with multiple boats – very nice! I like your original rainbow better than the crop. You need to keep those reflections – maybe try a portrait crop.

    Comment by Deanna — January 21, 2012 @ 5:50 pm | Reply

  13. […] shows us not one but two and a half photos which she improved with creative cropping.  The rainbow sprite show captured is my favorite of all the submitted […]

    Pingback by Assignment 17 Recap | Views Infinitum — January 25, 2012 @ 6:33 am | Reply

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